andrew kruse-ross | frank's tribute | jan. 2019
An early chapter in the autobiographical “Simply Frank: The Story Behind the Man, the Brand and Let Me Be Frank Productions,â€ tells of a transient adolescence for Frank Hermans. His family often packed up and moved in search of greener pastures, most often pressed by his father's search for employment.
One of the family's moves landed them in the insular town of Huff, Arkansas, a scenic, yet remote locale nestled some 80 miles northeast of Little Rock. In 2000, Pleasant Plains, where Hermans and his brothers Michael and Heath attended school, reported a population of 267.
Hermans recalls his first days in Arkansas without fondness.
“The first six months were terrible; I hated it. Lots of loneliness.â€
It wasn't all bad, however, as his aunt and uncle lived nearby and it was here that he and his brother Michael discovered Elvis Presley.
The double-LP, mail-order recording simply titled “Elvisâ€ captivated the boys.
“We'd play that thing in my aunt's basement over and over, singing along and staring at the cover.â€
These sing-alongs were Hermans' first vocal lessons and likely serve as the reason that his voice has so often been compared to that of Elvis Presley.
“I idolized Elvis. I grew up singing all his songs and I performed one of his songs in a show once and someone came up to me and said, 'You know, you sound like Elvis but you look like Alec Baldwin.'â€
Embracing the response, he began gradually including more Elvis songs in his shows, until finally putting a show together called “Elvis Lost.â€
The show, which Hermans offered to private parties, centered around a forgotten Elvis concert and featured Amy Riemer and Frank's youngest brother, Heath. It also featured Hermans' first attempt at impersonating The King in earnest.
It was a hit.
“Then people started throwing money at me to perform as Elvis,â€ says Hermans.
Despite years as an Elvis fan, Hermans felt he only had a professional handle on a dozen of Elvis' songs. To increase his repertoire, he'd insert Elvis songs into his Let Me Be Frank shows whenever possible. In time, however, the demand for these Elvis tribute shows outweighed the supply.
He soon turned to Amy Riemer, who “looks and sounds just like Reba McEntireâ€ and the Elvis and Reba show took shape, but the show soon grew to include more and more material.
“Amy can learn a song in a day, and she helped me created a bigger show,â€ says Hermans. “She's able to manipulate her voice to sound like so many great artists: Janis Joplin, Ann Wilson, Brenda Lee, Dusty Springfield, Martina McBride, so we put together these tribute shows that were all '50s, '60s and '70s.â€
Over time, and as is customary for him, Hermans often likes to share his excitement for a project with others, often incorporating them into the act whenever possible. Partly to share this excitement with others and partly to keep up with demand and meet the needs of larger venues, Frank's Tribute has continued to draw other performers into the fold, many of them Let Me Be Frank cast mates.
“It's a different company than Let Me Be Frank Productions, but I love having these people involved in the things I do, they're so good at what they do.â€
Some of those familiar faces include Lisa Borley as Barbara Streisand, Pat Hibbard as Yakov Smirnoff and Kasey Schumacher as Karen Carpenter.
Hermans has also been able to include some talent found a little closer to home.
“In 2013, after George Jones died, I asked my brother Mike if he'd consider coming on board as George Jones and he's become the best George Jones impersonator I've ever seen.â€
It also gives the brothers a chance to wax nostalgic and continue to share a performance stage as they've done so many times since they were teenagers, albeit less so in recent years.
“It's so much fun,â€ says Mike Hermans. “It's such a rush and it's awesome that we still get to play together.â€
Frank's Tribute often caters to smaller groups, sometimes featuring just Hermans and Riemer as it was during tribute's formative years. Larger shows, like that taking place at the Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center on January 25, feature the troupe's full lineup as well as live music performed by five-time Best of the Bay winners, the All-Star Band comprised of Pat Hibbard, Dennis Panneck, Tony Pilz and Adam Cain.
The Ashwaubenon PAC show will also see the return of a Frank's Tribute favorite as Paul Evansen returns to the stage as Neil Diamond.
“We're thrilled for this show,â€ says Hermans. “We've got the entire crew in on this one and the PAC here in Ashwaubenon is just beautiful and amazing acoustically.
“It's going to be a lot of fun … lots of laughs, lots of great music. I can't wait.â€
Tickets are $26 and available at AshwaubenonPAC.org or TicketStarOnline.com.
For more information or to book Frank's Tribute for your event visit LetMeBeFranks.com.
“Simply Frank: The Story Behind the Man, the Brand and Let Me Be Frank Productionsâ€ is available at all Let Me Be Frank Production shows at the Meyer Theatre or through Amazon.com. Proceeds benefit CP.